Kremlin Fingered in Litvinenko's Murder

A British security services agent has said the Russian government likely played a part in the 2006 poisoning in London of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko.

The accusation was made just hours after President Dmitry Medvedev and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met face to face for the first time at the G8 summit in Toyako, Japan.

"We very strongly believe the Litvinenko case to have had some state involvement," the unidentified British security agent, whose face was not shown, said on the BBC Newsnight program, aired Monday night.

British prosecutors have accused former security services officer Andrei Lugovoi of poisoning Litvinenko, another former security officer who had been granted political asylum in Britain, with radioactive polonium-210. Lugovoi, now a member of the State Duma, has denied involvement, and the Russian authorities have refused to comply with Britain's request, citing a constitutional prohibition on handing over its citizens.

The BBC source also said the Federal Security Service had been given a freer rein in its foreign operations under former President Vladimir Putin, who once headed the agency.

The FSB press service refused to comment Tuesday on the BBC report.

The BBC also reported Monday that MI5, a British secret service agency, had thwarted an attempt by Russian security services to murder exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, another fierce critic of Putin's government, in 2007.

A Russian citizen, whose name was not mentioned in the report, was arrested and deported from Britain in June 2007 in connection with the alleged murder attempt.

Kommersant reported last year that the man deported was reputed Chechen crime boss Movladi Atlangeriyev, known by the nicknames "Lord" and "Lenin." Atlangeriyev, who reportedly cooperated with the Russian security services in the early years of the decade in their dealings with Chechen separatists, was abducted in Moscow in April and his whereabouts remains unknown.

The British security official told the BBC that the alleged attempt on Berezovsky's life demonstrated "continued FSB willingness to consider operations against people in the West."

Both Russian and British media reported late Monday and Tuesday that Medvedev and Brown had likely discussed the Litvinenko case in their meeting Monday at the summit.

On the eve of the summit, major British media outlets cited unidentified MI5 officials as saying Britain had been so overrun by Russian spies that it was undercutting British intelligence efforts to fight terrorism, because agencies were forced to commit resources to preventing any other high-profile murders by Russian agents on British soil.

Presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko suggested Tuesday in Japan that the timing of the security agent's comments was not coincidental.

"We are working to bring Russian-British relations out of what is, to a large degree, a dead end," Prikhodko said, The Associated Press reported. "Such leaks and quotes demonstrate that not everybody in Britain is in the kind of mood for constructive work as we feel [Brown] himself is."

Sergei Markov, a Duma deputy from the United Russia party, called the reports attempts to tie the "ever-present myths of omnipotence of the KGB [the FSB's predecessor] and of the cruelty of Russia's rulers" to Medvedev's meeting with Brown."

"British journalists believe that it is their duty to say what they feel is right at what they think is the right time," Markov said.